Travel, Immigration, and suitcases

Though I won’t write about a land I am officially forbidden to visit on my own (see my recent post), I will write a bit about the pull to travel, to explore, to move that we humans many humans have.

Some don’t, I know; some people are homebodies; they don’t hear that siren song. But many, like me, love to travel.

What is that pull? That itch?

How can I explain this inexplicable sense that there is more to know, more to understand, more to experience, more to this world than what is in our own backyard?

How to understand the curiosity that pulls us, seduces us to move, to learn, to experience?

This kind of traveling involves packing, suitcases, stuff. What we pack says alot about who we are. Think about that for a moment. What do we think is important to have?

It took me about three days after my arrival to realize I hadn’t packed for this recent trip at all well. For two weeks, with no laundry facilities I cared to visit, I had packed one pair of shorts, one pair of culottes, two T-shirts, one dress-up dress, a few scarfs, and a serape.

And lots of stuff to giveaway.

While there and struggling some with what to wear on the ninth and tenth days, I thought about those who travel with no suitcase.

We call them refugees, immigrants, asylees, and asylum seekers.

We’ve all got migrations in our ancestry, starting with that big one a million or so years ago when our ancestors  left Africa. Fast forward a million years and we get to the various waves of immigrants that have helped build the gene pool that is modern-day America.

Three hundred eighty-eight thousand came in chains, an important reminder of the evil that mankind is capable of imposing.

Many more felt compelled to come. Whether it was the desire to start anew, to have opportunities not available to them in their own homeland, or simply the romance of the unknown, they left all they knew, all that was familiar to them and set off. Many brought suitcases too.

For others, it wasn’t much of a choice. Famine, religious persecution, political unrest, and violence are among the myriad external forces that have pushed people away, sending them off to foreign shores, the U. S. among them.

They arrived, for the most part, with only the clothes they wore and the hope that this country offered them a safer, freer, better life.

That brings us to today when more than 500,000 children and adults are living in detention facilities across the country. You’ve read about them, heard about them no doubt in the news. Many are denied entry and sent back across the border immediately. But others are allowed in, only to be “detained” in private prisons and community jails while they wait their court hearing. This can take years.

They don’t need to spend it sitting in a jail. They could be living in a home, in a community while they work their way through the legal system.

All they need to be released is a sponsor willing to take financial responsibility for them while they go through the legal hoops to become an asylee (aka, a refugee).

And I”m pleased to be able to announce that communities across the country are rising up saying, “Enough” and sponsoring these asylum seekers. Perhaps your community is one.


Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Would you welcome an asylum seeking family into your community? What fears might you have if you learned one was about to move in down the street from you?


[box] LEAPFROG, my tiny handbook for handling those tricky conversations we all face, is now tightened once again and available in digital and paperback format.

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12 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I come from a family that has given refuge to asylum seekers, my Aunt Ruthie especially (through Lutheran Social Services). It’s the loving thing to do.

    Leapfrog is on my Kindle and I’m hoping you’re doing well with it. And I’m wondering if you were able to make connection with the contact I sent you.

    Have a great week!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Sleigh RideMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I remember reading about your family’s sponsorship of refugees, Marian. Kudos to you all; what a gift to have that service in your history. The more I’m reading about the many asylum seekers now allowed into our country but confined to private (ie profit making) prisons while they wind their way toward legal refugee status, I’m stirred to get involved. Those living in communities stand a much greater chance of not having their claim denied.
      Stay tuned for more information as the months go on.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Travel, Immigration, and suitcasesMy Profile

  2. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    Interesting questions. I am a homebody who no longer hears the siren song of travel. That being said, it has nothing to do with not wanting to meet people from different countries, so when immigrants come to our community I’m happy about it. I know there’s a number of people from Russia who’ve landed around here, but I don’t know why that country, here. It’s a restless world, filled with people who are striving to do better, and I have to believe that the energy they bring can only serve to make this country stronger.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Home Sweet Home: A Simple Way To Explain Where You Live, Just CuzMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ally, I too am curious how Russians happened to settle in Columbus, Ohio. If you had years, we might be able to figure it out.

      I loved your image of “It’s a restless world.” And yes indeed, it would seem that those who are able and willing (and perhaps just restless enough) bring a certain mind set with them that enables them to have become so many of our leaders in both industry and service. Thanks for stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Travel, Immigration, and suitcasesMy Profile

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Boise, Idaho, is one of 200 resettlement cities in the United States, providing hope to an average of 800 refugees annually. I’m honored as a weekend volunteer to work with female immigrants who sew and sell their handcrafted items at Dunia Marketplace (a local fair trade store) via Artisans for Hope. The goal is to make them feel welcome here in the Boise community and help them build a new home and life.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      That is an impressive number for a city your size, Laurie. Thank you for letting me know. I’ve actually been trying to find info on just how many cities have been doing this of late, so thank you for the 200 number. If you have particular internet resources you’d like to share, please email them to me. I’d really appreciate the help.

      You’ve written and shared photos of the Dunia Marketplace before. I’m glad to know a bit more about it now. Thanks.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Travel, Immigration, and suitcasesMy Profile

  4. Nancy
    | Reply

    I would certainly not fear them! They are the ones who are terrified! I would give them spare furniture, cookware, towels, food, etc., etc., and make sure they had the various resources they need to survive and thrive! We’re all from immigrants! Golden rule, bottom line.

  5. Cathy Marshall Monaghan
    | Reply

    I love to travel and I love meeting people, that’s why I volunteer to teach ESL at the local community center in my town. I hear some horrific, as well as terrific, stories from these people, mostly Central Americans and Mexicans. Being bilingual is a big plus because I can communicate with these folks and hear their stories. I sure wish I could do a lot more for these folks. So sad what some of these folks have had to endure just to survive.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Did I know you taught ESL, Cathy? I don’t think so. Aren’t you glad it’s your native tongue and you didn’t have to learn it as a second language? What a challenge that would be. Trauma survivors (and so many of our immigrants are) benefit greatly from telling their story, over and over again. You are providing a valuable service. Thanks for telling me about it.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Travel, Immigration, and suitcasesMy Profile

  6. Tracy Rittmueller
    | Reply

    You’ve got me thinking. What could my community do? I wasn’t aware that people could be released to sponsors today.

    My aunt and uncle sponsored 2 Vietnamese men in the early 1970’s. Our church did, also, but my aunt and uncle just let those two men move into their home. I hadn’t realized how radical a thing that was for a midwestern farmer to have done. The men have since relocated to California, but my cousins get together with them now and then.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      That surprised me too, Tracy. There are currently over 200 cities across the country organized to sponsor asylum seekers or refugees coming out of detention centers and private (profit-making) prisons. Vermont has a few and will soon have one more. If you’d like, I’ll send you information as I get it.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Travel, Immigration, and suitcasesMy Profile

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